17 Oct 2005

Meeting to be held Monday to discuss operation of New Caledonia's nickel smelter

6:29 am on 17 October 2005

A special meeting is to be held at New Caledonia's SLN nickel company today to discuss the operation of the territory's only nickel smelter at Doniambo.

Reports say the plant's workings are being hampered by a lack of ore supply, despite the end of a long-running blockade of key mines following a dispute with unions.

Last week, SLN warned of catastrophic consequences if the blockades were to continue and the government highlighted the importance of SLN to the tax base in an effort to get the blockades lifted.

Meanwhile, SLN's parent company, Eramet of France, is yet to comment on last week's surprise announcement that two Canadian companies with interests in New Caledonia plan to merge.

Under a government-backed agreement reached in 1998, Eramet is to give a huge deposit to one of the Canadian companies if it commits itself by the end of this year to building a new smelter in the mainly Kanak north.